News: From here, there and everywhere.

Paul ‘PJ’ Johnson (RIP)

(Physics 1978 to 1981. Born 23rd May 1960, died 2nd February 2024)

PJ, a Bootle-born son of a copper, came to London to study physics and immediately nestled into the back row of Physics Lecture Theatre One, and into he traditions of the Royal College of Science Union. He promptly discarded his scouse accent and most of the connections with his home town save his passion for his beloved Liverpool Football Club.

He was a big man and a committed supporter of the RCSU and took on the office of Vice President for 1980-1981, and continued this allegiance through the RCSA as an alumnus.

His work for ACT-BIS/Mysis International/Midas-Kapiti took him to international banks around the City, and then to banks all across Europe. For pleasure, his intense childhood interest in Aztecs, Maya and Incas took him repeatedly to the South Americas.

PJ was treated for bowel cancer during the difficult ‘covid years’, and successfully beat it off only to be taken out a few years later after a short but debilitating illness from an unrelated neurological condition. He went to bed and never woke up, dying peacefully in his sleep.

PJ’s funeral will take place on Friday, 31st May, just a week after what would have been his 64th birthday, at Mortlake Crematorium at 11:20 am and afterwards at The Ship (10 Thames Bank, London SW14 7QR).

If you can get along, do let us know so we can give the family an indication of numbers.

Amongst your very many friends PJ, you will be deeply, deeply missed.

Rest in peace.

Mr Eric Featherstone

(Physics 1987-90)

March 2024: We see a lot of Eric who, being the veteran of many a Jezebel repair, is often to be found lurking in and around the Jez Garage, but we were particularly pleased to see him at the recent RCSA/RCSMC Joint Annual Dinner.

Eric’s news updates weren’t especially momentous: “I’m still living in Ruislip, and still working on Jez“…. he told us. But then he added “and I possess a pre-WW1 Field Camera…… A year or two back I thought why not get a camera contemporary with the College’s vintage vehicles and, alas, common sense didn’t get between me and eBay!

So Eric ended up with a beautiful contraption of mahogany, brass and black leather bellows, mounted on a mahogany tripod.

It’s probably a National Camera that was manufactured by the W. Butcher & Sons company from approximately 1902 well into the 1920s. Or possibly a Thornton-Pickard of about the same age, in “half-plate” size; 4.75 x 6.5 in.”

It came with three double film holders expecting glass plate negatives, which I had to adapt to sheet film. And it had no lens or tripod, so I had to go back to eBay for them and hoped they’d fit.

Eric took his camera along to the RCSA / RCSMC Annual Dinner and took four very atmospheric photographs.

The film was a box of Kodak Tri-X Pro labelled “develop before 1981” de-rated from 320 to 80 ISO because of its age. With that and the slow lenses, exposure times indoors after dark were over a second and the results were still underexposed!”

It was very good fun if all very silly!

We think you’ll agree that Eric has taken four fantastic photographs.

Dr MC Black (RIP)

(Physics 1969 to 1972. Died 26th January 2024)


It is with sadness that we hear of the death of Martin Charles ‘MC’ BLACK. The news came as a very great shock to us as he had been diligently working, right up to his death, on plans for the future of his beloved RCSA Trust, for whom he had been Chairman for twenty years, MC was found dead at his home on Friday 26th by police who had been alerted by a concerned neighbour.

Dr MC Black, as he preferred to be known, was a great servant to very many organisations, It all began when he became Honorary Secretary the Royal College of Science Union for 1971-1972, That was followed by a smooth transition into the following year, 1972-1973, whereby MC was elected to the sabbatical post of IC Union Honorary Secretary, and was simultaneously Bar Committee Chair and one of very few who have edited Felix for just one edition.

Thus began MC’s decades of service to the RCSA, as Honorary Secretary (again!) from 1983 to 1994, and culminating in his years as President from 1998 to 2002, a period during which he would also sit on Imperial College Court, And from 2004, there followed twenty years at the helm of the RCSA Trust as its Chairman and as the RCS representative on the Imperial College Exploration Board. To all these College roles, MC brought his trademark characteristics: a formality and diligence in administration, a fierce custodianship of funds and strong adherence to tradition.

More recently, MC was proud to have established the ‘Dr MC Black Prize’ which has now been awarded twice to “one or more final-year undergraduate students within the Department of Physics adjudged to have produced outstanding laboratory based practical work not involving substantial use of computers”.

Outside of College MC gave similar levels of dedication and service to the role of teacher of Physics at the Langley Park School For Boys and, from from 1987 to 1990, the Haileybury School, delivering some fabulous A-level results. And likewise to his active membership of the Institute of Physics; as a Trustee and guide for the Waltham Abbey Royal Gun Powder Mills Friends Association; and as a meticulous researcher for the Sherlock Holmes Society of London. Fifteen years of diligent research into Victorian Literature fed into his ‘Detective Walks’ around London, and, of course led to his Doctorate in Sherlockiana, a source of much pride. MC would tell of his earlier time as publisher for the University of London, based in Senate House which was built over 23 Montague Place, where Arthur Conan Doyle had lived in 1891.

But it’s probably true that MC’s deepest passion was reserved for Freemasonry. It all started early on, with the Imperial College Lodge, but over the years MC became involved with a great number of masonic orders. But on reflection, it was actually to his aged mother that MC reserved his most dutiful service. For over a decade MC became her near full-time carer and would shoe-horn his administration and communication into a few early-morning hours before his mother would wake at 9:30.

On the lighter side, MC was renowned for his atonal drunken singing in the Bar, for his flamboyant signatures invariably in red or green ink, and for his student prank whereby freshers, invited to take tea in his Southside room and offered ‘one lump or two’, would receive instead one or two dips of a sugar lump tied to a length of cotton.

Who doesn’t have memories of MC’s idiosyncratic dress style: his bush hat and his walking cane or, at the IC Boat Club’s Henley BBQ, his distinctive white RCS blazer; or memories of his fold-away ‘Travelscoot’ mobility scooter that would zip along slightly faster than the walking speed of his companions?

Our thoughts are with all those who knew MC, and with his brother Andrew over in Portland, Oregon. You can, should you wish, leave a message here which will be forwarded on to Andrew.

MC, you were a one-of-a-kind character, a great personal support to the current Executive and will be very deeply missed. Rest in Peace old friend.

Sean C. Davis (RIP)

(Physics 1981 to 1985. Born July 1961, died 15th December 2023)

This short, strawberry-blond Irishman from the village of Keady, County Armagh, was one of five kids. He took the well-worn route between Ireland and London to study Physics at Imperial from 1981 to 1985.

Armed with the ‘gift of the gab’, his cheeky smile, a joy in discussion and debate, and a reputation for breaking into song (usually some Irish rebel song) Sean was instantly popular and was quickly noticed. Little wonder that he became ICU Rag Chairman and was then elected to the sabbatical role of ICU Deputy President for the academic year 1983-1984. That same year he was elected to the ’22 Club, and in what would usually be considered the wrong sequence, the following year, 1984-1985, he became RCS Vice-President.

Sean was a student barman and played an important role in precipitating the transfer of the Union Bar from the College to the Union when he (and all the other student barmen plus at least one barwoman!) walked out in protest at the treatment of the resigning bar manager, Doug Armstrong. ‘None of them will ever work in the Bar again!’ declared the spiteful catering manager. But he was wrong. In 1986-1987, with the bar safely in Union hands, Sean became a full-time barman under Kev Buckley, alongside Eric Darbyshire (also sadly lost to us). Sean was elected as an honorary member of the Chaps Club in 1987 and has his name on the Stromeyer pot.

Sean would organise wayward golfing tournaments for novice students and alumni throughout the second half of the 80s and found his golfing skills were so much in advance of everyone else’s that he needed to introduce his own personal handicap system: he would never adopt a proper golfing stance or size up his shot. He would simply stroll up to his golf ball with his club held loosely in one hand and without breaking step would whack the ball. He still clocked up some of the best rounds.

Though Sean’s time in College saw momentous turmoil within the Bar and IC Union, for sure the most consequential event was meeting Cathy White, soon to become Cathy Davis. After leaving College, Sean began a lifetime career in the Civil Service, and he and Cathy set up a succession of homes in Twickenham and South West London. Before long two lovely daughters, Emma and Clare, arrived on the scene.

Sean’s proximity to ‘the home of rugby’ lead to some of his greatest pleasures: chance encounters with his rugby international heroes, for Sean was the most extraordinarily passionate and knowledgeable supporter of Irish rugby.

Sean and Cathy became keen long-distance runners, getting themselves deeply involved with the Stragglers running club. Sean was a ferocious runner, for example completing a marathon in 2:54 and a half marathon in 1:19, and in 1995 he founded the very successful 220 mile ‘Green Belt Relay’ which he went on to manage for seventeen years and is still thriving today. Sean also founded, documented and promoted the ‘London Green Belt Way’ a long-distance walk following the same route, and the ‘Freedom Trail’, a related long-distance path.

In 2015, with Sean and Cathy divorced and the two girls all but grown up, Sean felt able to return home to Keady to support Christina, his aged mother. Sean soon found himself documenting walks around his village and researching local history and he leaves behind another indelible mark with his websites – a guide to Armagh’s archaeology, folklore, and history, and – A Business Directory & Guide to Keady Town and Nearby.

Sean was diagnosed with lung cancer in early 2023. We all thought we would have him around for longer, but before the year was out, he passed away peacefully in his hospice.

Our hearts go out to everyone who knew Sean, especially his two girls. Sean was so proud of them both, he really wouldn’t stop talking about them, and our thoughts also are with Cathy, of course, and with the rest of the family.

Rest in peace Sean.

(For the next month or so, a recording of Sean’s funeral mass can be seen on this page here.. )

Lost and Found….

June 2023: An eagle-eyed member of the public, or more correctly their young son, found a small key as they were strolling the countryside of Rutland. They realised there was a name and address on the keyfob: the address of the RCSA! The finders contacted us immediately, and now it is over to you, the members to help find the owner……

So, a mysterious RCSA key appears in Rutland!

Does anyone recognise this keyfob and key? Do any of our members live in Rutland or have passed through Rutland and might have lost a key? Anyone with any ideas should contact the Hon Sec via the contact page.

….and Wanted

June 2023: We continue to receive pleas for any unwanted copies of the “Imperial College Alumni Address Book, 1990 Volume 2,  Royal College of Science“.

Should anyone have an unwanted copy, do get in touch. We are absolutely sure to pass it on to a very happy and very grateful fellow member.

Dr MC BLACK (back again)

(Physics 1971-79)

June 2023: MC, who was our RCSA President from 1998 to 2002 and currently chairs the board of the RCSA Trust, is delighted to tell us his recent Sherlock Holmes walk (mentioned further below) was indeed of interest to some of our members. Flushed with that success, MC would like to invite us to his next event which takes place on the evening of Monday 14th August, 2023. It is a social evening at His Majesty’s Royal Palace and Fortress of the Tower of London to witness the centuries old “Ceremony of the Keys“, the traditional locking up of the Tower of London which has taken place on each and every night, without fail, for at least 700 years.

The PROGRAMME for the evening starts at 19:15 when you’ll meet outside the main entrance to the Tower (The West Gate by the souvenir shop off Lower Thames Street). As the personal guests of Yeoman Warder Gary Thynne, you’ll get a guided tour of parts of the Tower including the Chapel Royal of St. Peter ad Vincula followed by drinks in “The Keys”, the Yeoman Warders’ Private Club.

Then, from 21.30 you’ll witness the Ceremony of the Keys, before returning back to “The Keys” until the evening finishes at 23:00.

Costs are £10·00 per person which includes your first drink in “The Keys” and any surplus funds will be shared between the Tower of London Club and Rotary Charities.

Please email MC here to book and to receive payment instructions and further details about the dress code, age restrictions etc. Feel free to ring MC on Ware (01920) 467 930 with any queries.


(Security Staff 1983-2003)

June 2023: Many of you will recall Terry from his many years as security guard at the archway to Beit Quadrangle. He retired back to Clacton on Sea, but found he simply couldn’t stay twiddling his thumbs. Before long, he and his wife Sharon were providing a veritable cornucopia of darts related equipment from Clacton’s covered market.

After a few years of expansion Terry opened a high street shops at 144a Old Road, Clacton-On-Sea, CO15 3BA, and that was where we found him when we desperately need advice on setting up the RCSA Double Eleven Darts team. Terry flew into action and came up to South Kensington to deliver us the most enormous mountain of darts, flights, an oche, replacement stems, chalk ….. if it was useful to a start-up darts team, it was somewhere in Terry’s lavish heap of equipment.

He left us practicing with our shiny new darts and promised sincerely that he would send us an invoice. But he didn’t! He tricked us, and very generously donated the whole lot as a present to the RCSA and to its members.

So this bit of member’s news is that Terry Sweeney is well (apart from a nasty cough that has been bothering him for far too long), Sharon too is really well. Their business is thriving and both of them remain exceedingly generous. If you’d like to stay in touch with Terry, ask our Hon Sec for his details, or you’ll find all his contact information on his web site. And if you have any darts related requirements, likewise you’ll find all Terry’s details on the website for his business, DB Darts.


(Physics 1971-79)

May 2023: MC was our RCSA President for the years 1998-2002 and currently chairs the board of the RCSA Trust, and informs us he is organising another of his highly regarded Sherlock Holmes walks on Sunday 11th June. You’ll be meeting inside the The Shakespeare’s Head (64-68 Kingsway, London WC2B 6BG) at 10:30 and walk in the footsteps of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson through some of the obscure byways as well as the principal thoroughfares of Covent Garden and Strand before finishing at the Sherlock Holmes Public House (near to Charing Cross) by around 13.30. There you’ll see the detailed recreation, by the Sherlock Holmes Society of London, of the sitting room of Holmes’ famous 221B Baker Street flat, and as you are in a pub and it is lunchtime, you may care to have a drink and a bite to eat.

Costs are £5·00 per person. Please email MC here to book and to receive further details and payment instructions, and feel free to ring MC on Ware (01920) 467 930 with any queries.

Dr. Robert ‘Bob’ PICKUP

(Chemistry 1971-79)

April 2023: Bob sends his best wishes to everybody and tells us that, following a major haemorrhagic stroke, he’s moved to a nursing home in Wrexham and says:

I would love to see anybody if you happen to be in the area.”

Contact the Hon Sec for address details. Bob also asks if anyone has an unwanted copy of the 1990 RCS Register of Students that he could have.

Dr. Leslie Alfred HUGHES

(Chemistry 1931-34. Died 2002)

March 2023: Leslie’s grandson, over in Perth Western Australia, asked his father, Richard Hughes who remains over here in the UK, to explain what this pictured item was, and why it was stored alongside all the memorabilia from his granddad…..

Richard didn’t have the faintest idea and turned to the RCSA for some help. We explained he was looking at his dad’s blazer badge featuring the coronet of the Royal College of Science, one of the Constituent Colleges that coalesced to form Imperial College in 1907. We were able to confirm his father had been a member of the RCSA and had studied chemistry from 1931 and left in 1934.

And we were able to dig out Leslie’s entry in the 1951 ‘RCS Register of Students’ for which his son and grandson were extremely grateful.

They reciprocated by sending us this fabulous graduation photograph of Leslie as a twenty-something year old. We are very pleased to be able to display it here.

Professor Albert Edward CURZON

(Physics 1953-58)

February 2023: Albert reminds us about the Imperial College Alumni Address Book, 1990 Volume 2,  Royal College of Science and says

I, Albert Curzon, and my twin brother, Francis Curzon started our undergraduate degrees in the Physics Department of the Royal College of Science in 1953 (see page C56 of the book). We then started our Ph.D.’s in 1956 (see page C61 of the book) and went on to be lecturers in the Physics Department. We are now both in British Columbia Canada. Over the years I have often consulted the Alumni Address Book to obtain information about former Imperial College Colleagues. My brother does not have a copy and therefore I also consult my copy for him. We will soon be at a prime in life (89 years old) and I would very much like to obtain a copy of the 1990 Address Book as a birthday present for him.”

Should anyone have a copy of the book they could bear to part with, do let us know.


(Maths 1980-83)

January 2023: Jill sends her regards to us all from Eastbourne. She asks if anyone is in contact with her old chum Frankie Williams. Jill explains:

Frankie was a biologist who was RCSU Publicity Officer, and between us we produced the 1983 RCS Handbook. After College, Frankie went on to study law and we lost touch.

If you are reading this Frankie, contact us via the Hon Sec. If any of you know Frankie, please pass this message on to her! Jill will be very grateful.